Make an online profile to get you hired, not fired

How to promote your skills and hide your ills

An ongoing debate rages regarding adding your boss and work colleagues as friends on Facebook. The answer depends on how you use the site. Whether you're new to the website or have been using Facebook since its launch, it's never too late to craft your profile into a powerful outlet for both your business side and the real you.

Even if you're currently treading the thin line of acceptability, a little common sense combined with time spent getting to grips with Facebook's various privacy settings can quickly ensure that your colleagues only see what you want them to see. Facebook has recently undergone a major revamp, and users can now create 'friend lists' that control which users see which content. This is the key to using Facebook as both a candid diary of your personal life and a calculated portrayal of your interests outside of work.

Researchers at sociology site YouJustGetMe recently conducted a study into how we are perceived via social networking and whether this is the same as how we perceive ourselves. Their findings revealed that in general, people do 'get' each other. Rather more interesting, however, are the somewhat offbeat methods that YouJustGetMe recommend to ensure that people browsing your profile get to know the real you.

Posting a link to a funny video is, according to this research, the best way to get others to understand you as a person because the content of the clip reveals your sense of humour. Writing down what makes you glad to be alive or revealing the most embarrassing thing you've ever done also reveals a great deal about you. On the other hand, recommending an unpopular book or not using a real profile photo can negatively accept other users' perceptions of your personality.

Whether you're looking for a good job, eager for people to know the real you or even trying to find the perfect partner on dating sites, the same rules apply.

Playing it cool

Due to its humble student roots, Facebook still retains its 'LinkedIn for kids' image. This can play to your advantage, however; it's far more acceptable to be casual on Facebook than on LinkedIn. Compare Barack Obama's interests on LinkedIn with those on Facebook. "Spending time with my kids" becomes "loafing w/ kids"; the word 'loafing' does enough to suggest he filled out the form himself, and that for some sums up the President Elect's desire to appeal to the site's predominantly under-25 user base. He's far more revealing about his likes and interests, too, juxtaposing the Bible and JS Bach's cello suites with The Fugees and One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest.

Casual analysis of Obama's listed favourite music, books and films reveals a strong interest in the African- American plight, American history and Christianity, while musical tastes varying from the baroque high-culture of Bach to the political counter-culture of Bob Dylan round off his perceived personality.

There's little here that his opponents can pick apart, yet enough to earn the respect of Facebook's younger members without becoming farcical. If you have professional connections on Facebook, it's worth performing a similar analysis on your profile. The music you listen to and the films you like can reveal a great deal more than a carefully constructed personal statement, and manipulation is far less obvious.

Another good reason for listing your favourite film, book or artist is the chance that it offers to really engage with someone. Your love of David Lynch movies might mean little to many, but there's an outside chance that someone you regard as a valuable asset might be a fan too and use it to start a conversation.